The Social Costs of Gun Ownership
This paper provides new estimates of the effect of household gun prevalence on homicide rates, and infers the marginal external cost of handgun ownership. The estimates utilize a superior proxy for gun prevalence, the percentage of suicides committed with a gun, which we validate. Using county- and state-level panels for 20 years, we estimate the elasticity of homicide with respect to gun prevalence as between +.1 and +.3. All of the effect of gun prevalence is on gun homicide rates. Under certain reasonable assumptions, the average annual marginal social cost of household gun ownership is in the range $100 to $600.